AS Susan Aitken enters the meeting room in Glasgow City Chambers, her mobile phone ring tone plays 'How Soon is Now' by the Smiths. The musical interlude is fitting as this is the woman widely tipped to take over as leader of Scotland's biggest city after the local elections in May.

Aitken, her party's leader in Glasgow, is hoarse voiced after chairing a series of sessions at the SNP conferences in Aberdeen, a condition not helped by a heavy cold she's fighting off.

Aitken is here to talk of her great ambition: to turn Glasgow into a city that ranks alongside Barcelona, Copenhagen and Berlin.

She says: "We have to be one of the great cities of Europe. Glasgow has everything and Glaswegians have everything we need to make our case. We just need to be ambitious and put our ambition into practice."

It's certainly a bold pledge. But it's one that Aitken insists can be met by dramatically overhauling the way Glasgow is run and reshaping the way public services are delivered.

Her talk of a "city government" for Glasgow certainly has echoes of Salmond's audacious move when he unilaterally replaced the name of the 'Scottish Executive' with that of the 'Scottish Government' in one of his first acts as First Minister.

It's a promise Aitken has chosen to make this weekend, as she and Sturgeon launch the SNP's manifesto for the council elections in Glasgow.

How precisely Aitken will achieve her dream of turning Glasgow into a city viewed by Europeans in the same light as the Catalan, Danish and German capitals, will now be an issue she faces questions over in the campaign.

Aitken's other big plan is reversing Glasgow's population decline.

"There are two one million-people cities in the world that have gone backwards: Glasgow and Detroit. Now I'm not for a second comparing us to Detroit which is an American tragedy," Aitken says.

However, Aitken believes Glasgow can nearly double its population. "I see no reason why we shouldn't set a target for Glasgow to be a one million people city again."

Her growth plan is simple: she wants to "make the city so attractive" that people are drawn to it and then want to "live their entire lives in Glasgow".

Doubtless her ambitions will be dismissed by opponents as grandiose boast to help the SNP evict Labour from one of its last remaining bastions of power.

Aitken describes herself is part of a "left tradition" in the SNP, and mentions her family's background in the Communist party.

Aitken, who lives in the Queen's Park area with her husband Gordon Archer - a former aide to John Swinney - cites her left wing background as one of her main influences.

"My grandfather was in the Community Party and my parents were in the Young Communist League," Aitken says - not something many SNP or Labour politicians would be quick to talk about.

In fact an open declaration of a Communist connection is something that at one stage would have been enough to put the potential leader of one of the UK's biggest cities on the radar of MI5.

The family played a significant role in organisations like the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the 1970s and 1980s, when they were also active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

It's part of a radical strain, Aitken insists, that is entirely in keeping with her view of the SNP.

"There's always been a strong left tradition in the SNP," Aitken says as she talks of what she describes as her "journey" from a traditional Labour movement background.

Aitken says that while she was never a Communist herself, she was a member of Labour in the 1990s, but became in her words "scunnered" by what she felt was the party's vicious infighting in Glasgow.

However, it was the now infamous internal selection battle ahead of the 1997 General Election between sitting MP Mike Watson and Mohammad Sarwar for the then newly created seat of Glasgow Govan that, Aitken says was the last straw for her.

Aitken said: "It was really unpleasant - not what I think politics should be about. I was already feeling disillusioned with the Labour Party".

Aitken has genuine contempt for her former party, which she blames for making parts of Glasgow "not liveable" for many of its citizens.

Aitken, who previously worked at Age Concern Scotland and as a staffer for SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, claims Labour-run Glasgow has let down communities, particularly in the north and north-east of the city, failing when it comes to things like basic services, access to green space and properly maintained streets.

People in the most crisis-hit areas "are not getting the basic services like street lights - fixing the pavements - and basic things like that", she says.

Obviously - as with the claim that she can turn Glasgow into a Barcelona on the Clyde - the question Aitken will face is how she will turn the city around.

Aitken says an SNP-run Glasgow would target resources at improving basic services in run down areas and promoting public health to reduce inequalities in areas such as life expectancy, as a first step.

"We need to get to the point where inequalities, if not completely eradicated, have been reduced to the point where people's lives are not defined by them," she says.

"Other countries and other cities are able to do this much better. We should be able to get to the point where you don't have that 20 years difference between different parts of the city in terms of life expectancy.

"I'm not saying we'll get there in five years time. Problems and issues will not disappear overnight. But even if we haven't reached that point - we want people to say they can see that's what we're working towards that's our ambition."